It began with an email. My father wrote to say he was growing weary living alone; this seemed the time to make some big changes. He’d had a number of medical issues, and felt unsure how much longer he could manage without assistance. He wanted to know if any of his three kids wanted his permanent company, perchance?
It was an odd request. My father and I had not lived together since my senior year of high school. He was an adoring Grandpa, but not hugely interested in long-term visits or overnights with us or the nine grandkids. I nervously wondered how ill he might actually be, to suddenly ask for assistance like this. It seemed against his stoic, solitary nature.
“We have to do it!” Damon declared with nary a second’s pause. “Of course he can live with us. But realistically, we’ll need a bigger house.”
Thinking the idea perhaps necessary yet far-fetched, we journeyed with my sister and all our kids to view a house for sale with a guest suite. Turns out this meant the downstairs was available as one big room, with a built-in kitchen along one wall. We wandered through the empty rooms while various kids skipped then flipped themselves about, and the sheer thud and noise of them skittering here, there, and everywhere made me realize, “This will never work!”
What we needed, if this were to be at all feasible, was a guest cottage. A separate residence, far enough from the main house that noise would not be a minute-by-minute concern. We returned home where I googled ‘homes for sale with separate guest cottage’. Four houses in the entirety of Western Washington State fit that description. The closest one to Seattle was in Snohomish County. From the looks of the tiny pictures on Zillow, the home had been on the market well over a year and seemed rather dated.
No matter. I asked Damon to call a realtor so that we could walk through it. I still had my doubts that any type of set-up would genuinely offer my father enough privacy and seclusion that he would actually want to live with us long-term. Miraculously, the realtor answered the phone right away, and after just a few minutes of research told us the property we were inquiring about was to have a new roof put on the following day, and therefore would be unavailable to walk through for a while. Could we come out right now, to tour the property?
Damon peered at me flabbergast over the dining table then shrugged. It was a Tuesday morning, about 10am. All the kids were in school. “Why not?” he said. “I’ll take an early lunch break and work late when we return.”
Willy-nilly we jumped in the car and headed north. Once off the freeway I was not overly impressed. The roads were hilly and rambling while the houses seemed placed helter-skelter, in every style and size known to man. We drove on and on for what seemed like ages. Finally we turned onto a residential street. A baby Christmas tree farm sprouted up to one side of the road, while turkeys and goats roamed the front yard of the house on the other side.
At the correct address we turned off the street towards the actual house we had come to see….but no house was visible. Instead a driveway plunged us straight into a thicket of trees and azalea plants. Immediately Damon and I felt immersed within some hidden Eden, too pretty not to ooh and aah.
The gravel drive wound its way through trees until we emerged out into the sunshine, not far from the cottage – a wooden, two-bedroom little house with its own patio and circular drive. We crept past in the car, amazed now to see a tiny Troldhaugen cabin perched among the trees even farther down the drive.
“Wow!” Damon gushed. “I could practice my horn in there!”
We rolled down a gentle hill, until suddenly we were at the barn. With double doors and a built-in chicken coop and even a horse-laden weathervane perched on the tippy top, it seemed too fairytale-ish to be true.
At last we approached the main house. Long triangular windows and double garage doors peered at us warily from the trees, looking an awful lot like a 1960’s-built, Lutheran camp retreat. We parked, unsure where the front door could possibly be, and walked around the side of the house like Hansel and Gretel at the Witch’s house. Locating the front doors off to one side, buried within a meadow of wildflowers, we entered the house breathlessly. Homemade, wooden bookshelves lined every wall and hung high overhead in the entry. How you would ever reach the books residing there remained a mystery. Out every window grew endless forests of trees.
We wandered the house in awe, not because it was so lovely, or turn-key, or even to our taste, exactly. Rather because it was so…odd. The living room had a two-leveled floor so that one might literally plunge off the carpet down four feet as you merely ambled along. A massive stone wall reinforced the camp retreat feel. Brazen, black spotlights perched at all angles of every room, and the bookshelves, well….whichever way you looked, there they were.
Yet however strange the house was, it had an undeniably cozy charm that Damon and I both loved right away. And those views!
The realtor led us outside and there it hit me that this truly seemed an amazing gem of a house, tucked away in the trees like this. Because just outside the plunge-floored-rock-walled-bookcase-heavy living room, lay a beautiful deck with a Jacuzzi perched right at the edge of the trees. Then, a fern-covered hill that tumbled down to a babbling creek! Yowza, this place had its very own creek!
Damon and I went back to the car and just sat there. It seemed entirely too good to be true. I tried to think what to say to my cautious, methodical father. Was he really ready to move? Did he truly want to relocate to Snohomish to live with grumpy old me and all these grandkids way out here in the middle of the forest?
When I called him on the way home my preplanned dialogue went right out the window. “It’s great!” I gushed. “A hidden gem! Really ideal the way it’s set up. There’s a creek, a barn, a horn studio for Damon, it’s five acres total…”
“OK – let’s put in an offer then!” my dad said. Pretty much just like that. Easy as pie. Sweet as tea. Simple as syrup.
When my sister came to have a look the following week and discovered the house next door was for sale as well, my father did not hesitate for a moment. “Put an offer on that one, too!” he announced during the next phone call. “You kids can all help take care of me!”
And so it is that three months later, we have moved to Kithnarra! I named it this because ideally this land is a place for Kith and Kin –friends and family – to come together. Plus it’s geographically located in the way far North – Narra – yet is also where we’ll tell our stories – and hopefully together narrate many new ones.
There’s really no gracious way to say ‘Thank You’ to someone who has, sight unseen, bought you a house (and a barn, and a creek, and a whole new way of life)! I hope these pictures do a bit of justice to the place. And to Grandpa George – we really can’t wait for you to get up here and join us so we can say thank you over dinner and S’mores in person.
And to our friends and family – PLEASE come and visit us here at Kithnarra! The front door is located on the side of the house and is hard to find, but it’s always open! Soak in the Jacuzzi, splash in the creek, stay for a story or two (or three!) around the rock wall…because from this day forward, this is where Little Red shall be walking!